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5 PLACES TO GET WINTER SUN IN LATIN AMERICA

The nights are long, cold grey skies loom and the scarves and hats are been pulled out. Winter is here. But the cold weather in the northern hemisphere, means warmth in the south. It’s summer in Latin America and one of the best times to discover the continent’s mountains, beaches, culture and food. Here’s our 7 picks for the best spots to get some winter sun in Latin America

BAHIA, BRAZIL

The northern state of Bahia in Brazil is blessed with some of the best weather in Latin America. Year-round temperatures between 25°C and 30°C and over 250 hours of sunshine every month create the perfect winter getaway. But it’s not just the weather that makes this region such a great place to travel. Wild national parks, hundreds of miles of white sandy beaches fringed with palms trees, sleepy fishing villages, beautiful pastel-coloured colony architecture and UNESCO World Heritage sites and tasty cuisine that perfectly blends the Afro-Brazilian culture. Try visiting Salvador, the capital of Bahia, in February for a unique alternative to Rio de Janeiro’s Carnival. Flying time 12 hrs via Lisbon.

CARTAGENA, COLOMBIA

The colourful city of Cartagena lies on the northern coast of Colombia overlooking the clear blue waters of the Caribbean Sea. Between December and March, the city sees almost no rain and bright sunny days. There’s a wealth of boutique hotels. Many are within old colonial palaces. The city has its fair share of museums, galleries, music venues and restaurants to keep your entertained. For those who prefer to spend their holidays away from cities, there are miles and miles of coastline. Off the beaten track is the Tayrona National Park. Hikers can head inland to walk the challenging trails to the Lost City. The sun-drenched islands of Baru and Rosario are only a short boat trip from the city.

JOSÉ IGNACIO, URUGUAY

Bahia Vik, Jose Ignacio (copyright David Horwell)

Uruguay doesn’t spring to mind for your typical summer holiday. Yet the country is less crowded and has better beaches than neighbouring Argentina. On the coast lies the small fishing village of Jose Ignacio. The town grew around a 19th century lighthouse. Now favoured by jet-setters, the area has become an escape for the super-rich and celebrities. Ultra-modern hotels abound. During the summer months the area booms with pop up bars, concerts and parties. Spend lazy days sunbathing on the beach and swimming in the refreshing Atlantic. At night dine in one of the restaurants or beach-shack bars. Further down the coast there are some even less developed spots. At Cabo Polonio isolated wooden cabins fringe the edge of deserted beaches, the only sound being the crashing of waves.

TULUM, MEXICO

Cliffside Mayan Ruins at Tulum ca. 2002 Tulum, Mexico

Tulum lies along the Riviera Maya on Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula south of Cancun. Comfortable temperatures hover around 28°C and enjoy a light sea breeze during December to February. An excellent choice for a winter getaway. The area is best known for its Mayan temple overlooking the ocean. This idyllic region has vast stretches of white sandy ocean and boutique accommodation. Snorkellers and scuba divers can enjoy exotic marine life. Nearby waters offer swimming with whale sharks, the big gentle giants.

BOCAS DEL TORO, PANAMA

Copyright David Horwell

Bocas del Toro is an archipelago of lush islands. They lie off the northern coast of Panama, near Costa Rica. Winter is the sunniest time. The islands have a distinct laid-back Caribbean vibe. Secluded wooden over-the-water bungalows sit off the coast from the tiny islands. The islands are excellent for hiking and bird-watching. The turquoise waters are great for diving, snorkelling, kayaking, surfing and swimming. Dolphins often jump above the sea and huge shoals of exotic fish inhabit the underwater world. Chill-out on a hammock, relax on one of the deserted beaches and gorge on fresh lobsters.

How to spend the perfect day in Cartagena

cartagena-de-indias-987966_640

The colourful city of Cartagena sits on Colombia’s Caribbean coast. Its charming colonial old town, friendly locals, laid-back Caribbean vibe and views over the ocean make it any easy place to while away a week, but if you only have one day in the city, this is what you should do. The metropolitan area of Cartagena is large, but in a day it’s best to focus on the old town surrounded by the old wall.

8 a.m.

Flickr: lesleyk

Flickr: lesleyk

Unless you’ve had a late night, wake early to make the most of the day. The pleasant temperature of the mornings cooled by breeze from the ocean makes it an excellent time to explore. Stop by Elaine Gomez Lozano’s arepa stand on the corner of Carrera 11 and Calle 38 in Cartagena’s Old City. Her generous corn arepas filled with cheese, meat and tomatoes are delicious and cost just a couple of dollars. Many street vendors specialise in freshly squeezed exotic juices, perfect for a little vitamin C boost.

10 a.m.

The city wall is more than 400-years old, but despite its age it’s in remarkably good condition. Start in the west and walk along the 2-mile stretch on top of the wall, taking in the views over the Caribbean ocean on one side and the old colonial streets on the other. There are plenty of scenic places to stop for a rest.

2 p.m.

Flickr: Aris Gionis

Flickr: Aris Gionis

You’re by the coast, so eating seafood is a must. Ceviche, a zingy mix of fresh raw seafood, typically white fish, marinated in lime juice, is fresh and perfect for the warm weather. While it’s easy to pick up a little plate from the street stalls or local cafes, the best in town is at La Cevicheria, a small restaurant on Calle Stuart 714. Sit outside in the sunshine, or perch on the seats inside and as well as ceviche, be sure to try the shrimps and octopus salad.

4 p.m.

Head over to the Castillo San Felipe de Barajas located just outside the old town. This enormous fort was built by the Spanish in the 16th century in order to defend the city from land and sea attacks. It was expanded in the 17th and 18th centuries. A scramble to the top of the fort 130ft high takes twenty minutes or so, from which you can explore the bunkers and tunnels and look down over the city.

6 p.m.

Flickr: sergejf

Flickr: sergejf

As the sun begins to set, and the twinkle of the city lights appear, jump on board one of the horse and carriages for a picturesque tour. Trotting around the old town is a delightful way to while away the early evening, enjoying close up views of the colonial architecture and people watching. The lighting at this time is excellent for photography, so get snapping.

8 p.m.

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For dinner head to Don Juan’s on Calle del Colegio No. 34-60, a casual restaurant with a sophisticated menu that puts Colombian’s excellent produce at the forefront. For a starter, the grilled octopus, bacon and candied potatoes is an excellent choice. For dinner, try the roasted lamb with yucca fries and an artichoke aioli.

10 p.m.

Music plays an important role in Cartagena. Grab a stool at the bar in La Vitrola on Calle Baloco no. 33-20, a charming venue with a similar atmosphere to the joints in Old Havana. Sip on a cold beer or aguadiente (the local fire water) and listen to the nightly live samba and Cuban music.

To start planning your trip to Cartagena and Colombia, get in touch with us today.

RELATED: A guide to the best street food in Colombia

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